Monday, 8 September 2014

The Giver: Movie Review

The Giver: Movie Review

Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Odeya Rush, Alexander Skarsgaard, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift
Director: Phillip Noyce

A canny cross between Utopia and Dystopia, The Giver is a slightly aloof adaptation of the 1993 Lois Lowry social sci-fi novel, where scratching the surface reveals something deeply nasty within.

It's the story of Jonas, a young man who lives the colourless community in the late 21st century. It's a world of conformity, order and seemingly perfect - and whose young citizens are given designated stations in life at the point of adulthood.

One of those is Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), who is given the role of Receiver of Memory, a title which forces him to meet Jeff Bridges' wizened The Giver, who helps bestow on Jonas a view into a life before the drab community came to life.

But with these visions of the horrors that mankind does, as well as the benefits, Jonas finds his outlook on life and those around him irrevocably changed.

The Giver deserves plaudits for covering some big meaty ideas - albeit within the trappings of parts of the Young Adult genre. The idea that a community could be washed clean of its emotions and life so sanitised isn't a bad one at all; and it certainly leads to one of the most emotionally horrific scenes ever committed to celluloid involving True Blood star Alexander Skarsgaard and a baby.

Despite outcry over how old Thwaites was for the role, he manages to convey Jonas' dawning awareness of life before quite well; Katie Holmes is almost emotionless as the mother of the piece, urging her children to use "precision of language"; Skarsgaard is practically buck toothed and goofy as the unaware father whose job is horrific; and Taylor Swift is a smart piece of stunt casting as The Giver's former protege. Bridges seems to spend a lot of the movie as if he's got marbles in his mouth and appears to be sleep walking in parts - as does Streep as the austere leader of the community.

However, in among those dystopian trappings, there's also a great deal of mawkishness which proves a bit of a disconnect here and there. Noyce uses flashes of colour so brilliantly and so vividly as Jonas begins to explore the outside world (it's all so reminiscent of Pleasantville's colour interludes all those years ago) in a new light; but towards the end, as Jonas gets more of a feeling of the evil that men have done through the years, Noyce's mixture of swelling music and deliberately emotive imagery (Nelson Mandela, tanks in Tiananmen Square) over-eggs the pudding.

Add onto that an utterly ridiculous ending that's got a neat and simple resolution which defies belief and logic, and The Giver starts to fail its at times utterly haunting and morally complex philosophical premise.


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